Asee peer logo

Engineering Skills and not People through the First-year Design Experience and Service Learning

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jonathan Elliot Gaines University of South Florida

visit author page

Jonathan E. Gaines is faculty in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of South Florida. He is the Director of First Year Experiential Education and Learning. Through this position, he develops and implements the curriculum for USF's Foundations of Engineering Lab course. He is also the Principle Investigator for Bulls Engineering Youth Experience (Bulls-EYE Mentoring) a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math based outreach program that uses undergraduate students to mentor middle school youth.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This Evidence-Based Practice paper draws from the pedagogical theory of service-learning and how it is used to assess student perceptions of a first-year engineering design course at a large, public university in the southeast of the United States. It applies the definition of service-learning by Oakes and Lima [1] as “a pedagogy that integrates service within a local, regional, or global community with academic learning”. Also, in accordance with Oakes and Lima [1], the components of the course mirror traditional service-learning experiences in that it possesses four distinct and important components: 1. Service, 2. Academic content, 3. Partnerships and reciprocity, and 4. Reflection. However, course outcomes stop short of service-learning’s more ambitious hope—to change students’ values and level of civic responsibility. Although increased interest in civic engagement may be worthwhile, logistical challenges for large lecture courses may be minimized by broadening the definition of service-learning to focus on more salient areas of development. In addition, the types of immersive experiences possible on a smaller scale may not be consistently possible in large lecture courses. In spite of these limitations, service-learning in the context of this course may be a useful means to introduce valuable engineering skills. A service-learning course structure developed to achieve engineering skill development is presented along with course evaluation data from the first semester of its implementation.

A problem-based course model [2] is used to demonstrate service-learning’s potential. Course outcomes aim to provide project management and engineering skills. An evaluation was completed using an adapted form of Gelmon et al. [3] pre- and post- test service-learning survey to better understand student perceptions of the course on 1. Engineering skills, 2. Learning, 3. Aspirations, and 4. Social responsibility. The data suggests that students who completed both the pre- and post- surveys thought the course was a worthwhile endeavor for learning and maintained positive beliefs about their skill development. However, the students’ perceptions of the course’s potential impact on personal values remained relatively the same. This suggests that the curriculum was effective considering its course outcomes. Ultimately, this paper provides an example for curriculum design and evaluation that may help frame service-learning courses in the future and encourage future research on attitude change in similar contexts.

Gaines, J. E. (2019, June), Engineering Skills and not People through the First-year Design Experience and Service Learning Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32734

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015